IMO rejects motions on abortion

Sir, – As a long term member of, and former honorary officer of the Irish Medical Organisation, who still believes in the need for a strong body representative of all doctors in Ireland, it saddened me to watch the television report of the AGM vote on motions relating to abortion (Home news, April 5th).

The travesty is that it is purported to reflect the views of the medical profession in Ireland. My personal view is that this is far from the truth.

The AGM is not a delegate meeting, but open to any member who chooses to attend. Usually the attendance at debates comprises scores rather than hundreds of members of an organisation whose membership is measured in thousands. Further, there are thousands more doctors outside the IMO.

It is intellectually and statistically dishonest to project the outcome of today’s vote as any sort of valid poll of doctors’ opinions on the topics in the three motions debated. The pro-life movement has never had any difficulty in ensuring a full hall when issues close to its hearts are debated; meanwhile most ordinary doctors were busy in their practices looking after patients on what is a normal working day.


The difficult issues surrounding problem pregnancies are of major concern to society at large and too important to be decided upon by any vested interest group such as doctors or nurses. Nevertheless, the Government does need to know what the views of the medical profession are, as any change in law will have to be implemented by doctors. Patients also need to know what the medical profession thinks about this topic if they are to have confidence in the care they can expect to get, and in this regard it should be the views of active medical practitioners which are canvassed, and not those of retirees (myself included).

I propose that the appropriate body to canvas the views of the medical profession is the Medical Council, which holds the register of all active practitioners, and whose function under statute is to protect the interests of patients. A valid collective opinion of the medical profession regarding termination of pregnancy in circumstances such as non-viable foetus, rape and the X case scenario can only be obtained by putting a series of questions to all doctors in a postal poll.

I was unable to attend the above debate at the AGM, but it has reminded me of similar debates on these issues in the past , all of which have generated more heat than light. – Yours, etc,